Spain Training Session and Press Conference

Is Diego Costa’s hamstring ready for the World Cup?

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In the title-deciding match between Atlético Madrid and Barcelona, Diego Costa hobbled off with injury before than fifteen minutes had passed. To ensure his fitness for the Champions League final, Costa was sent off to Serbia to be treated with horse placenta. The forward then failed to make it even ten minutes against Real, with Atléti eventually succumbing to a 4-1 defeat in the final.

It’s little wonder, then, that few thought Costa would be included in Spain’s 23-man roster, much less play an important role at the World Cup. However, after Spain’s warm-up match against El Salvador, many of the concerns over Costa have been alleviated.

On Saturday, the striker played 74 minutes, showing little evidence of the injury that had plagued him in recent weeks. Before five minutes had passed, Costa put on a burst of speed to get inside the penalty area, where he was fouled by Derby Carrillo. Spain fans held their breath, but Costa emerged unharmed.

Cesc Fàbregas, however, did not fare as well. The Barcelona man put his penalty well high over the bar. It was Costa’s former teammate, David Villa, who secured the win for la roja, scoring in both the 61st and 87th minute.

“It was good to get rid of the fear I had,” Costa said through an interpreter. “I am not 100 percent, but about the injury, it is clear that I am very well, that I am better. So this week I must work hard.”

Fans will hope Costa’s hamstring holds up. David Villa may Spain’s all-time goalscorer, but he’s also 32 years old. Fernando Torres often does well for Spain, but after recent seasons at club level, there’s not a lot of trust there. In absence of Costa, Spain may once again need to rely upon their midfield (or a false nine) to get the job done.


EURO 2016: Who’s headed to France?

PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC - OCTOBER 10: Volkan Sen of Turkey in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group A Qualifier match between Czech Republic and Turkey at Letna Stadium on October 10, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic. (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
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The group stage of qualification is complete, as 20 teams have clinched a berth at EURO 2016, which kicks off next summer in France.

The top-two finishers in each group automatically qualified, as did the best third-place side out of all the groups (Turkey). France qualified automatically as the host nation.

[ MORE: EURO 2016 roundup ]

That leaves eight third-place teams to battle for the final four spots through a play-off. The draw for the matchups will take place on October 18, and those matches will be held from November 12-17 as a home-and-home play-off.

Group A

  1. Czech Republic
  2. Iceland
  3. Turkey (automatically qualified as best third-place side)

Group B

  1. Belgium
  2. Wales
  3. Bosnia and Herzegovina (qualified for play-off)

Group C

  1. Spain
  2. Slovakia
  3. Ukraine (qualified for play-off)

Group D

  1. Germany
  2. Poland
  3. Republic of Ireland (qualified for play-off)

Group E

  1. England
  2. Switzerland
  3. Slovenia (qualified for play-off)

Group F

  1. Northern Ireland
  2. Romania
  3. Hungary (qualified for play-off)

Group G

  1. Austria
  2. Russia
  3. Sweden (qualified for play-off)

Group H

  1. Italy
  2. Croatia
  3. Norway (qualified for play-off)

Group I

  1. Portugal
  2. Albania
  3. Denmark (qualified for play-off)

EURO 2016: Dutch disaster as Netherlands fail to qualify

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS - OCTOBER 13:  Robin van Persie of the Netherlands (19) reacts during the UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying Group A match between the Netherlands and the Czech Republic at Amsterdam Arena on October 13, 2015 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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The group stage of qualifying for the 2016 European Championship has come to a close, and one of the top teams in the world will not be playing in France next summer.

Netherlands 2-3 Czech Republic

The Netherlands finished second at the 2010 World Cup and third at the 2014 World Cup, but have failed to qualify for EURO 2016. Playing in front of a home crowd in a must-win match against the Czech Republic, the Dutch got off to a dreadful start, falling behind 2-0 as manager Danny Blind was forced to make a substitution within the opening 40 minutes. The Czech Republic was sent to ten men before the break, but an own-goal from Robin Van Persie made it 3-0 as the Dutch couldn’t recover. A disastrous result for the Netherlands, as big changes will surely come from the top down.

[ RELATED: David de Gea fighting for starting goalkeeper position with Spain ]

Italy 2-1 Norway

Italy finishes atop Group H without a loss after defeating Norway 2-1 today. Norway took the lead through Norwich City’s Alexander Tettey, but late goals from Alessandro Florenzi and Southampton’s Graziano Pelle gave the Italians all three points.

Malta 0-1 Croatia

With Norway’s loss, Croatia jumped into second place in Group H and secured qualification to EURO 2016 with a 1-0 win away at Malta. Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic scored the game’s only goal, as Croatia advances despite having one point deducted due to inappropriate actions from their fans.

Elsewhere in EURO qualifying

Group A

Turkey 1-0 Iceland
Latvia 0-1 Kazakhstan

Group B

Belgium 3-1 Israel
Wales 2-0 Andorra
Cyprus 2-3 Bosnia and Herzegovina

Group H

Bulgaria 2-0 Azerbaijan